Gen X and Travel Marketing

There’s a fixation with youth. There’s also a fixation with Boomers. But do a little math and it becomes abundantly clear that Gen-Xers, who are currently age 40-54, are naturally the up-and-coming (or recently-there) empty nesters as of 2019. And that spells opportunity.

Gen Xers won’t be seniors for another 10 to 15 years. They’re technology savvy. They’re in their peak earning years. Increasingly, they have more time to themselves. And travel brands should be all over them. And yet, travel brands are still caught up in marketing to Boomers and Millennials with little but a vague, dated “family-oriented” nod to members of Gen X. Just as brands tend to have a dated vision of Millennials as aimless, untethered youth, something that simply isn’t true, travel blogs and influencers are using the terms “seniors,” “empty nesters” and “Boomers” interchangeably. Baby Boomers are still empty nesters, they are still traveling, they are still big money for travel brands. They just aren’t the only empty nesters anymore.

As members of Gen X move into top management positions, they are making substantially more money. The youngest Gen-Xers may still have kids in school or college, but older Gen-Xers are becoming empty nesters – they are focused on living well and still have time to build up retirement savings. According to a Met Life study, 82% of Gen-Xers own homes now, and many are trading up to better homes. They are moving into a chapter of their lives where they have more discretionary dollars to spend on housing, consumables, travel and entertainment. Additionally, Millennials and Gen-Xers are more likely to travel both domestically and internationally (64% and 59%) than Boomers (47%).

As travel brands devise how to speak to this overlooked generation, more research should be done about what they like to do, see, and engage with. What entices them, what excites them, what drives their decisions regarding travel now that they have the time and resources? And as a starting point, they should consider what we already know sets them apart from the Millennials and Boomers:

  1. They are more likely to stay connected to work when they travel. While many Baby Boomers are already at retirement age and many Millennials are not yet saddled with heavy responsibility, Gen-Xers are work-obsessed and are also in high-earning, management years. Do we foster that obsession or help them break free of it?
  2. They will be inclined to do shorter vacations or turn work trips into vacation moments. They will be looking for quick getaways that will not compromise their careers.
  3. They get their inspiration from Facebook and Pinterest (yes Pinterest) more than Instagram. Millennials are more into Snapchat and Instagram, Boomers are more into travel blogs, but Gen X is a Facebook and Pinterest generation through and through.
  4. They place customer service as a higher priority than bonding with a brand. They want loyalty programs. They want perks, They want the hotel that goes the extra mile to make them happy. They want to keep it amicable but professional.
  5. They are most accessible between 8:00 pm and midnight. They consume personal content after the professional day has closed. Brands have a better chance of reaching them during the “night owl” habits they formed “after the kids’ bedtime” or “before the kids’ curfew.”

We need to learn a lot more about Gen X as they are now, not as they were ten years ago. We need to know where they are going. They are an audience ready and willing to invest their time and money on travel. Their needs and interests should be met by influencers and industries that speak to them personally. And they should be met sooner rather than later.

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Published by gavinjohnston67

Take an ex-chef who’s now a full-fledge anthropologist and set him free to conduct qualitative research, ethnography, brand positioning, strategy and sociolinguistics studies and you have Gavin. He is committed to understand design and business problems by looking at them through an anthropological lens. He believes deeply in turning research findings into actionable results that provide solid business strategies and design ideas. It's not an insight until you do something with it. With over 18 years of experience in strategy, research, and communications, he has done research worldwide for a diverse set of clients within retail, legal, banking, automotive, telecommunications, health care and consumer products industries.

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